Crackdown 3 – Stomping out crime in an all-new city

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Crackdown showed a lot of promise when the first game launched in 2007, letting players loose in a massive city filled with gang warfare and superhuman cops. After a lackluster sequel came out a few years later, it seemed the series had stalled out for good. Last year, Microsoft announced that Crackdown was suiting up again, and at Gamescom I saw the Xbox One game in action.

The multiplayer demo dropped me in the city with a handgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, and a single purpose: blow up as much as I can. This display of destruction is impressive thanks to the use of Microsoft’s much-vaunted cloud technology. Joined by a few like-minded maniacs, we take down several prominent towers by whittling through their facades and tearing through the iron infrastructure inside. Once weakened enough, they collapse
realistically, taking out nearby buildings and leaving massive piles of wreckage. It felt like more of a tech demo than anything else, but it showed the hardware’s capabilities.

Single-player also features destructible environments, but nowhere close to that degree. You are in law enforcement, after all, and it doesn’t make much sense to run around leveling the city you’re charged with protecting. Agents have the same “skills for kills” leveling system, but agility orbs won’t be wandering all over the map like they did in Crackdown 2, according to game director Dave Jones.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game is how Reagent Games is working to inject more personality into the world. Crime lords have been a series fixture, but they haven’t lived up to their potential as larger-than-life foils. In Crackdown 3, buildings, signs, and even your vehicles are covered in what Reagent calls digital fabric. This substance can display in-universe advertising and provide a futuristic sheen over the city – making it seem more vibrant and alive. As players recover territory from the crime lords, the villains can hack into the network, allowing them to project taunting hologram-like messages throughout the city as a way of reacting.

Make a crime lord angry enough by knocking out their source of income or destroying their minions, and they’ll retaliate. Reagent isn’t talking much about these at this point, but we did see a lieutenant decked out in a mechanical exoskeleton. The superheroic agents had a hard time taking him out, even after dropping shipping crates and other environmental hazards on the machine.

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